Educate, Empower, Prosper
Empowering young people (18-23) from disadvantaged areas with the key of education, so they can unlock barriers and prosper.
Our mission is to support young disadvantaged people (18-23) in Ireland, with the determination and ability, to successfully complete university.
How The Empower Journey started
Empower the Family CLG is a charity founded in 2018 by Deborah Somorin. Deborah trained as an accountant in PwC's Assurance practice and is now a consultant in PwC’s Advisory practice. You might recognise her name from the Late Late show last year where she told the very personal story of her journey from homelessness to accounting to help raise funds for a homeless charity who had supported her at the time. Every time she shared her story at previous fundraisers and including this one, people asked: “what can we do to help other determined single parents change the trajectory of their economic situations?”
When you factor in the supply issue for childcare and housing there is no single organization, in Ireland, that a student who is also a single parent could apply to, to have both of those needs met. In comparison, in the UK, family student accommodation is a very common offering by universities. For example, the University of Edinburgh has 65 apartments available for family accommodation.
Call To Action: Deborah created an online petition the weekend of the Late late, to gauge the level of interest from the community of single parents for a project like this. That petition raised over 12 thousand signatures. We received hundreds of comments from people who felt this was a project that would have made or will make a significant difference in their lives. As a result, Empower the Family CLG gained philanthropic funding of ~ €517k and plan to open student accommodation for disadvantaged young people with an onsite creche.
A few months ago, we secured the support of the Irish Council for Social Housing (ICSH) and Dublin City Council (DCC) for our project. With their support, we have gained Approved Housing Body (AHB) status with the Department of Housing. As an AHB we can now access the Capital Assistance Scheme to help fund the accommodation side of our project. You can find out more about the scheme here (page 8 and 9).
The board of Empower the Family decided that in light of the homelessness crisis being experienced by people in our target demographic, we should be providing more than 10 apartment units. We now plan to provide 20 apartments for single parents in university, with a creche on site. The creche will be funded by our founding donors through their very generous donations to date. We also now plan to provide 10 apartments for young people transitioning out of state care who are attending university, i.e. in aftercare.
We plan to build a collaborative and sustainable student community in the apartment complex and we are very close to securing a DCC owned site in Ballymun which will enable us to do that. We have built an incredible team which includes some of the best companies in Ireland and their principals. Due to the scale of the project expanding, we are now working towards delivering this project by September 2021. That is an optimistic timeline, with the majority of the delay being caused by the public procurement and planning approval process we are now going through. However, our team is committed and focused on our shared vision of supporting disadvantaged young people in Ireland, with the determination and ability, to successfully complete university. We are prepared and willing to do whatever it takes to make that vision a reality.
Winner: Junior Chambers International Ireland, Ten Outstanding Young Person Award 2018 for Humanitarian and/or Voluntary Leadership
Winner: Junior Chambers International Dublin, Ten Outstanding Young Person Award 2018 for Humanitarian and/or Voluntary Leadership
Finalist: Social Entrepreneur Ireland Awards 2018
Finalist: Women Mean Business Newstalk Female Entrepreneur Award 2018
Facts and Figures
'Education Is An Ornament In prosperity & A Refuge In Adversity.'- Aristotle
This table shows the number of students/pupils, in Ireland, who are also parents. The data shows that married/cohabiting moms and single moms represent the majority of parents in education. Given the poverty statistics for single parents, detailed below, we have chosen to focus on single parents (moms and dads) for our first location. We hope to provide family student accommodation to a wider demographic in our subsequent locations.
Source: CSO census data - Population Aged 15 Years and Over in Private Households Enumerated as Couples or Single Parents 2011 to 2016 (Number) by Principal Economic Status, Sex, Type of Family Unit and Census Year
The reality for single parents in Ireland...
"1 in 5 people in Ireland live in a one-parent family
One parent families have the highest consistent poverty rate of 24.6% of any group in Irish society
Those living in households with one adult and one or more children aged under 18 had the highest deprivation rate in 2016 at 50.1%"
"Childcare costs in Ireland are among the highest in the OECD. Single parents, as the sole carers of their children, are more strongly affected by these costs. They simply have no one else to bear the responsibility of caring for their children.
One Family stated in their submission to the Committee Affordable and accessible childcare and afterschool care are essential in-work supports which must be provided to enable lone parents to engage in the labour market. Families headed by a single parent who participate in the paid workforce, or are engaged in educational or job training programmes, require care of their children."
"Ireland has no state agency with responsibility for child maintenance payments
Parents are forced to seek payments through an adversarial and costly court system
Maintenance, when obtained, is deducted at a rate of 100% from rent supplement and 50% from other social welfare payment
Single parents in receipt of welfare are required to seek maintenance from the second parent
In Ireland, 35% of single parents are in receipt of child maintenance payments
In other jurisdictions such as Sweden, New Zealand and Canada, the state is involved in facilitating the transfer of maintenance to parents
In Sweden, if the parent fails to or cannot pay maintenance, the state provides the payment and recoups the money from the liable parent subject to their ability to pay"
Where else has this been done in the world?
"New Family Student Housing units and a new Early Education Services complex will support the educational needs of student families and faculty/staff alike" - University of California, Santa Cruz
Family student housing with an on-site creche provides an additional benefit to parents as highlighted by:
Berkeley University -
University of California, Santa Cruz - https://housing.ucsc.edu/family/
Other universities that provide family student accommodation:
The University of Edinburgh -
The New York University School of Law (NYU Law) -
“We want to support disadvantaged young people (18-23) in Ireland, with the determination and ability, to successfully complete university. We want to do this because it changes not only the trajectory of that woman/man’s life but it also changes the trajectory of their child’s life. My son Liam and I are living proof of this.
By creating role models in disadvantaged communities we also hope to change the trajectory of the lives of other young people, with/without children, who live within these communities.
We need you to help us to make that happen.”
- Deborah Somorin, Founder, Empower the Family
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs)
Empower the Family CLG is working towards accomplishing 10 out of 17 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). Specifically:
Goal 1 - No Poverty
Goal 3 - Good Health and Well-Being
Goal 4 - Quality Education
Goal 5 - Gender Equality
Goal 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
Goal 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
Goal 10 - Reduced Inequalities
Goal 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
Goal 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
Goal 13 - Climate Action
You can find out more about the goals here.
You can also find out more about Ireland's progress in achieving the goals here.
All available Voluntary National Reviews can be accessed here.